From alternative hip-hop to indie and rock, five music acts to have on your playlist
Here is a curated list of unique artists to listen to before you hit play on mainstream music.
With the second wave of COVID-19 forcing us indoors, we once again turn to streaming services for entertainment. But while YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud might keep users engaged, some would argue that the options offered by these platforms are simply too many. Therefore, as the world streams more than ever, here is a curated list of unique artists to listen to before you hit play on mainstream music.
A boy band, as they like to call themselves, Brockhampton was created on a Kanye West fan forum in 2009. Originally called AliveSinceForever, they used the platform to discuss and share music. Led by Kevin Abstract, a Black queer artist, Brockhampton is now a diverse 13–member group where each has a vital role to play in the its frenzied, soulful music. “I was looking for friends,” Kevin says in the docuseries American Boyband. “I just wanted people to hang out with and make music with.” Breaking the rigid stereotypes of rap culture with manic panache, Brockhampton sheds light on homosexuality, racism, depression, rape culture and other such themes with a melancholic defiance – all skillfully packed in a feverish album. After putting out their first underground mixtape ALL–AMERICAN TRASH in 2016, the rap collective went on to release the critically acclaimed Saturation series, consisting of 3 albums, all in 2017. With aggressive and chaotic tracks like 'Junky' and 'Boogie' as well as melodies like 'Face' and 'Summer', Brockhampton have carved a niche for themselves in the music industry. More recently, the song 'Sugar', a single from their 2019 album Ginger, hit the Billboards Top 100 and even became a TikTok challenge.
Destin Choice Route, otherwise known as JID, is an American rapper from Atlanta, Georgia. Born on 31 October, 1990, JID was initially a football player – a defensive back – and had earned a scholarship to play NCAA Division 1 football at Hampton University before getting expelled. At a time when the trap scene was booming in Atlanta, giving way to artists like Gucci Mane and Travis Porter, JID had an entirely different trick up his sleeve. Inspired by jazz, RnB and soul music, he developed and honed a unique style of flow pattern combined with lyricism mirroring the greats from the New York rap scene, Jay Z and Nas. Vibrant, electric and smooth, JID’s vocals, dialect and music are often compared to the lyrical genius Kendrick Lamar and the all–rounder Anderson Paak. Part of the rap game since 2010, JID entered it wholly in 2012 after his expulsion from university. His big moment arrived in 2017 when J Cole, an established rapper by then, signed JID to the Dreamville label, after which he released his debut album The Never Story, dropping the hit single 'Never'. Charged with energy, suavity and skill, The Never Story made it to the Billboard 200, and paved the way for his next studio album in 2018, DiCaprio 2. An instant hit, DiCaprio 2 received high praises from critics. With features from J Cole, ASAP Ferg, Ella Mai, Joey Badass and many more artists, the album is loaded with wordplay, expert punchlines, an intricate flow pattern and electrifying production.
An American singer of Filipino and African–American descent, Fike was born in Naples, Florida. Learning how to play the guitar by the time he was 10, Fike was undoubtedly set to make an impact on the music industry. But his life, like most other artists, was riddled with hardships. With an absent mother and a lack of a male figure in his life, he took to substance abuse, was put under house arrest for battery of a police officer, and later jailed for violating it. It was around this period that he began making music. Though he had already cultivated a local fan base by releasing music on SoundCloud, his 2018 EP Don’t Forget About Me, Demos – made during his house arrest and released when in jail – gained traction and resulted in a famous bidding war amongst record labels, before being signed to Columbia Records for $4 million. His grainy, soothing vocals and his ability to bend genres – pop, rock, alt rap, RnB – have caught the attention of many famous established artists like DJ Khaled and Billie Eilish, the latter listing him in her top five new artists. Singles like '3 Nights' and 'Babydoll' from his EP were top hits in Australia and UK, fuelling him to make his latest album What Could Possibly Go Wrong in 2020. With another blend of pop, rap and blues, Fike’s unique, alternative music is simplicity at the highest quality.
Giant Rooks is an indie rock band formed in 2015 in Hamm, Germany. Now operating from Berlin, the band makes music that bears resemblance to artists ranging from Bob Dylan to The Fall Out Boys. They released three EP’s – The Times Are Bursting Lines (2015), New Estate (2017) and Wild Stare (2019) – over a span of five years, and though each one received more recognition and success than the others, the band refrained from rushing into an album release. Finn Schweiters, in an interview with Front Row Live, said that it took them time to figure out their sound, to make music meant for 2020 and not to “get lost in nostalgia”. Giant Rooks has over time included numerous aspects of rock in their music, from punk to indie and electronic. It was in 2020 that they put out their debut album Rookery, which has received wide praise and success. Their euphoric sound and energy remains intense throughout the album. With Frederick Rabe’s rich vocals and the bands overall instrumentals that mix classic indie rock with electronic pop and RnB, Giant Rooks touch upon many subjects including current socio–political affairs and a person’s role in society.
Christian Akridge, popularly known Christian Leave, is a musician from Texas, America. A former Vine star, he had gained some popularity before the demise of the app, and then began making music on his own. Written, sung and produced by himself, he released his first EP Hope in 2016, with calm, catchy acoustics accompanied by heartfelt lyrics and vocals. Replete with a classic indie/folk energy, Christian steers through the EP skilfully, evoking nostalgia with a ukulele cover of the classic, 'Can’t Help Falling in Love', by Elvis Presley. After receiving poor reviews on his debut album in 2018 Heartbreak Room, Leave put out the EP Trilogy the same year, where he began gravitating towards pop, resembling the young twenty one pilots. In his latest EP, released this February, Christian explores rock through songs like 'Heartfelt' and 'Live Life Your Time'. The creativity and potential he has displayed is immense. Though he has not found his sound yet, his raw, honest lyrics and his ambition to experiment with music set him apart from his Gen-Z competition.
Before embarking on their multi-city tour, Smalltalk took some time out to have a chat about their influences, their debut EP, Tacit, and how it came about.
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Although she undertook a brief amount of training in Carnatic music, coming from an Iyer family, Jayashree Singh — best known as the vocalist for the rock bands Pinknoise and Skinny Alley — was mentored by one of Kolkata’s renowned jazz singer, Pam Crain | #FirstCulture